Performance anxiety?

Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2012 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. — For Clint Bowyer, expectations are high, and, accordingly, so is the pressure to perform well at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bowyer enters Sunday’s Sylvania 300 tied for fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 15 points behind Chase leader Brad Keselowski. Though Bowyer finished 10th in last Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland, he lost ground to race winner Keselowski and runner-up Jimmie Johnson.

Then again, Bowyer hasn’t posted a victory at an intermediate speedway — ever. New Hampshire is another matter. Two of Bowyer’s seven career victories have come at the Magic Mile, and he led 49 laps in last year’s Chase race before running out of fuel in the closing circuits.

Consequently, Bowyer comes to Loudon expecting his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to run well — and under pressure to make up ground on the Chase leaders.

“You definitely need to capitalize on your good race tracks, and I think this is one of my good race tracks, so it’s definitely important to capitalize on that and get myself closer to the front,” Bowyer told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at NHMS during a question-and-answer session behind the No. 15 transporter.

“This is a track where we can gain some ground, and we need to make sure we do that.”

Bowyer feels confident he can live up to the expectations with a strong finish.

“There’s a reason there’s some pressure,” Bowyer said. “It’s because we’ve performed here, and we need to do it again. I feel like we can back that up, and I’m fairly confident in that. This is just one of those tracks where you just kind of go in, and usually things work out, you know?

“(But) you don’t take that for granted. I did run out of gas leading here one time, and I think I finished like 25th (actually 26th in last year’s Chase race), so that wasn’t much fun.”

If Bowyer is to win on Sunday, he’ll have to beat Denny Hamlin, who earlier this week called his shot and promised to win the race. Hamlin was fastest in qualifying trim in Friday’s opening practice, with Bowyer ninth.

“I guess he enjoys pressure, because that certainly places a lot of pressure on you,” Bowyer said of Hamlin’s promise. “Who knows? I’m going to call his bluff.”


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